Gov. Ron DeSantis was not shy about tooting his own horn during Florida’s State of the State speech as the legislative session opened in Tallahassee
“Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind,” the governor told a joint session of the Florida Legislature while talking about what has happened in the lockdown states. “While so many other states kept locking people down, Florida lifted people up.”
DeSantis called every job in the state of Florida essential and praised the opening of schools across the state.
“Friends, legislators, Floridians, lend me your ears: We will not let anybody close your schools, we will not let anybody take your jobs and we will not let anybody close your businesses!” DeSantis said.
“Florida has succeeded where so many other states have failed in providing opportunities for its students in large measure because of the tireless efforts of school superintendents, administrators, teachers and coaches. They knew keeping kids out of school would be a disaster and were not going to let that happen on their watch. On behalf of a grateful state and millions of grateful parents, thank you,” he added.
While the governor spent a portion of his speech praising himself and the actions of the state since the pandemic started, he is also focused on what is next for Florida–and it contains a lot of what his conservative political base wants.
“Working with President Simpson, Speaker Sprowls and law enforcement groups across the state, we have proposed the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement reforms in the nation,” DeSantis said, promising tough action.
“We will not permit localities to jeopardize the safety of their citizens by indulging in the insane fantasy of defunding law enforcement. We will not allow our cities to burn and violence to rule the streets. And we will not leave any doubt in the minds of those who wear the uniform that the state of Florida stands with you, ” DeSantis said.
The governor also promised to crack down on Facebook and Twitter.
“Because Florida is dedicated to free and fair elections, we cannot allow Big Tech to interfere in our elections by putting a thumb on the scale for political candidates favored by Silicon Valley,” DeSantis told the lawmakers. “This is real-life 2021, not fictitious 1984, yet Big Tech wields monopolistic power over the public in ways that would have made the monopolists of the early 20th century blush.”
DeSantis is also extending a hand to teacher’s unions.
“I reject reductions in funding for K-12 education,” DeSantis said. “Last session, the Legislature answered my call to increase the average minimum salary for teachers, taking Florida from the bottom half of states to the top 5. Let us keep this momentum going. Let us do more this year!”
Support for the governor among teachers has been low, despite his push to raise starting teacher salaries to $47,500 a year in most counties. Getting them vaccinated would likely improve those numbers. DeSantis is adamant that more vaccines are on the way and that the state will continue to reopen, inviting more tourists and businesses from states that are shut down to come to the Sunshine State.
With revenues improving and unemployment numbers also dropping, the governor said he is proud that the state did not dip into its reserves and insists that lawmakers stick with that plan as they pass this year’s budget.
While DeSantis painted a rosy picture of Florida’s future, Democrats were not as optimistic in their response to the State of the State. Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D – Ft. Lauderdale, called the bill against protests “a dissolution of your First Amendment rights”.
Farmer chided the GOP for “muzzling the people” instead of “giving our health and economy the attention they so desperately need.” Farmer was also critical of the lack of attention being given to revamping the state’s unemployment system. This was not mentioned in the governor’s speech despite hundreds of thousands of people having problems with the CONNECT system that received so much criticism in the early stages of the pandemic.
Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, applauded the governor’s call for more funds for Everglades restoration.
“Because of Governor DeSantis’ leadership, $625 million was secured the past two years for the environment and water resources, and he is again leading the charge this year, recommending $625 million for Everglades restoration and water quality. He has also proposed $1 billion for a four-year resiliency plan in Florida,” Eikenberg said. “Time and again, the governor has shown his commitment to our environment and the Everglades, including making the Everglades reservoir a priority of his administration. He recognizes the importance of water to Florida’s future and has devoted himself to protecting these critical areas of our state.
“We are hopeful that the Florida Legislature will join in supporting $625 million for Everglades restoration and water quality in the budget they put together, and we look forward to working with them during this legislative session,” he added.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.